Social media is undergoing a period of rapid growth and I see no signs of this abating in the future – in fact, quite the opposite.
There are many benefits of networking in this way and the vast majority of users do so appropriately and responsibly. However, I am deeply concerned about the increasing number of pre-teens having their own social media accounts. Not only does this place the young person at risk, but it also creates and fuels avoidable problems for parents and schools.
It seems pupils are increasingly suffering from the social media condition, FOMO (fear of missing out)
The minimum age to open an account on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, musical.ly and Snapchat is 13. Consequently, if a young boy or girl opens an account and are not yet 13, they will have lied about their age. It is very much a parent’s decision to allow their child to create accounts of their own, and I understand the pressure which can be applied by pre-teen children as I had two of them. However, my advice is that parents don’t give this consent. Bearing in mind that the platforms are working on the assumption a child is over 13, the possible risks for pre-teens accessing the sites are very real.
Advertising is intended for an older audience and can include content of a sexually explicit and graphic nature. In addition, news feeds have included features on kidnapping, terrorism, eating disorders and self-harm. Children may accept friend requests from people they don’t know in real life, leaving them vulnerable to inappropriate contact. Sites are unable to verify members’ ages, identity or motives. Groups, language, games and photographs are often unmoderated and can be offensive and unsuitable for pre-teens and, sadly, young children may be encouraged to post pictures of themselves, which can raise the spectre of sexting, another harmful side-effect of technology.
Privacy settings may be automatically adjusted following software updates, leaving children vulnerable even if they initially select the highest privacy level, and notifications throughout the night are likely to interrupt sleep patterns and impair performance in school and old fashioned face-to-face communication.
A considerable amount of time and upset would be saved if, collectively, the parent body joined forces with schools in protecting our younger pupils
Furthermore, my colleagues and I spend many hours investigating and dealing with unpleasant and inappropriate use of social media in the younger year groups, much of which takes place outside of school. Inevitably, many parents and children get caught up in these investigations and a lot of avoidable upset occurs. It often becomes clear that many parents are uncomfortable with their young child’s engagement with social media and several felt they had to say ‘yes’ to their children having accounts because ‘everyone else has them’.
It seems pupils are increasingly suffering from the social media condition, FOMO (fear of missing out). Understandably, this fear is shared by many parents even though they are worried about what their child might encounter when joining in. FOMO has arguably replaced ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ and is the anxiety created by the thought of missing out on an activity or event. It is a modern syndrome driven by technology and instant communication and affects many pupils, as well as parents on behalf of their children. The angst is very real and is extremely detrimental to wellbeing, with young people failing to appreciate the joy of the present and catastrophising about the future.
Whilst we at Solihull School will continue to do our very best to safeguard children and alert parents when we are made aware of inappropriate behaviour on social media, a considerable amount of time and upset would be saved if, collectively, the parent body joined forces with schools in protecting our younger pupils.
From my vantage point, a lot more harm than good comes from having too much, too soon when it comes to social media.
For more information about Solihull School, visit their website.